Biblical Foundations 8: Elevating Community 1 (Acts 2)
Over the last seven posts, we have been digging deeply into the Bible to examine the Biblical cornerstones of the foundation of a local church:
- Why does God have us attending our local church?
- What is He doing in us and through us, both within and outside the walls of the building?
In this post we will look at the Biblical foundation and cornerstone of elevating community, and specifically Christian community (fellowship) that comes not just from chilling together but digging deeply into the Bible together with other people outside of Sunday morning. We will look at Biblical passages that show us that doing so is absolutely essential to our surviving and thriving as God’s people and being a real family and not just a collection of individuals or a social club.
Non Christians can get together and do stuff, even good deeds! But what distinguishes the family of God is that we get together on the foundation of the Bible and through the power of the Holy Spirit
- to pray,
- to worship the LORD in spirit and in Truth,
- to dig through our Papa’s Book and Letter written to each of us,
- to get equipped to share the Good News of Jesus Christ thru words and deeds
There is a super-natural characteristic when God’s children gather together…Bible-reading among Christians is the mortar between the bricks of our other activities, it’s the water in the concrete that allows the mixture to be STRONG, it’s the yeast in the dough that causes the bread to RISE, it’s the sugar in the iced tea that…alright I’ll stop—I think you get the picture! 🙂
But This Feels Like WORK; Bible Study Feels Like A Chore…
Fair point. But please consider this:
Families don’t just have fun together, we also do chores together, we work together, we serve each other together! Thus the family of God gets together for the beautiful work of prayer, Bible study, fellowship, sharing vulnerably, etc. This does take time and trust, but it is worth it!!! We are FAMILY! Do I have all my brothers and sisters with me? 🙂
- No matter how much natural talent a professional athlete has, they MUST train, they MUST practice, they must get in the weight room and do MANY reps, they must let themselves get sore and sweaty, they must do laps and drills over and over again to develop their talent. There simply is no getting around this. Champions aren’t made in the championship game but in practice and in the pre-season…history is littered with talented athletes who did little or nothing to develop that talent.
- Same is true for world class musicians; they make playing the instrument LOOK effortless and easy, but it is NOT! Their ability at a concert on stage is the result of countless hours of work behind the scenes. Talent isn’t given by God so we can rely on the talent and do nothing with it! Talent/gifts are given by God to be DEVELOPED, to be strengthened and improved over time through WORK, TRAINING, etc…
2 Timothy 1:5-7 (NIV)
5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.
- [God has given Timothy faith as a gift that has been planted and nurtured and watered over the years by his Mom and Grandma! Now Timothy, as a young man, has a responsibility to continue to develop that faith in Christ, not just to rest and coast on yesterday’s lessons and growth and accomplishments]
6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
- [It takes WORK to fan a bonfire into flame! It takes EFFORT! It is still the grace of God always—without Christ we can do nothing!—but we have a role to play in developing the gifts that God has given us! And much of this work and training takes place in the context of Christian community, of getting together with other Christians to pray, study the Bible, be vulnerable and worship God, just like the early Christians did!]
Fine. It’s Takes Work To Develop Community And Our Faith In Jesus.
But Why Work So Hard As A Christian If God Loves Us The Way We Are?
If I get the diploma without studying, WHY STUDY!?
Isaiah 61:3: “They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of His splendor.”
We were made to grow as Christians, not just get re-born through Jesus and then remain as infants! As cute and amazing as infant babies are, and as much as we parents would love to have our older children go back to be an infant for a short time, we WANT them to grow and mature and develop and reach their full potential!
Furthermore, such maturing and growing glorifies God; that is, it shows off HIS power and love and spreads His fame when the spiritual forces in the heavenly places see how He takes us from dead sticks on the side of the road and turns us into 300 foot tall redwoods of His righteousness! God’s fame spreads as we grow in Christ!!!
Romans 12:1: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper [spiritual act of] worship.”
Our spiritual act of worship—in some ways MORE than our singing!—is following Jesus and growing and learning to sacrifice our bodies, our time, our dreams, our talents, our finances, for Him!
So What Does Biblical Christian Community Look Like?
Philemon 1:4-7: “I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers,
5 because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus.
6 I pray that your partnership with us in the faith
may be effective
in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ.
7 Your love has given me great joy and encouragement,
because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.”
Refreshing the hearts of God’s people! Faith in Christ expressing itself through words and actions! Constantly remembering each other through prayer! Joy and encouragement! Yes…Christian community—knowing deeply and being known deeply—is necessary for us to be refreshed in the deserts of this sinful world! Is it risky? YOU BETCHA! Is it necessary? YOU BETCHA!
Romans 1:8-12: “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you,
because your faith is being reported all over the world.
9 God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son,
is my witness how constantly I remember you 10 in my prayers at all times;
and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you.
11 I long to see you
so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift
to make you strong—
12 that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.”
Strengthening each other’s faith and mutually encouraging each other! This does not happen on a deep level with only short conversations on Sunday morning or only getting together to talk about sports! We need deep Bible study and prayer together regularly to survive and thrive as Christians!
Acts 2:42-47: “They devoted themselves
to the apostles’ teaching
and to fellowship,
to the breaking of bread
and to prayer.
43 Everyone was filled with awe
at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.
44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.
45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.
46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.
They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,
47 praising God
and enjoying the favor of all the people.
And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
The early Church did this—developed deep community through prayer and Bible study and worship and meals and celebrating communion and sharing possessions with each other. It is one of the main ways that they survived and thrived in INTENSE persecution and difficulty.
Acts 17:11: “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica,
for they received the message with great eagerness
and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”
DAILY examining the Scriptures!
2 Timothy 1:5 & 3:14-15: “14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it,
15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures,
which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
Timothy’s mother and grandmother trained him in the Bible from infancy! Timothy’s faith—a LIVING faith, not just intellectual!—was strong because of the amazing influence—and daily diligence—of his mom and grandma! YES!!!!
2 Timothy 3:16-17: “16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful
for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Many Christians are excited these days about outreach, acts of love in a local community & around the world, etc. And rightfully so!!! But we often put those service projects—good deeds!—ahead of studying the Bible deeply, and because of what we talked about two weeks ago, we simply run out of time and are contect to only do good deeds (sporadically) without going deep into God’s Word. But this passage shows us that we can only be equipped/supplied to DO those good deeds by DEEPLY STUDYING the Bible on a regular basis! You don’t try to climb a big mountain without being equipped with ropes and carabiners and so forth! You need to be equipped well; so do we need such equipment from the Bible for the good deeds that God has prepared for us, because Christian good deeds are more than just a temporary meeting of earthly needs, but an introducing to Jesus through our words and actions so that He can forever meet people’s eternal needs…
- It’s not cool to read the instructions to a video game; “let’s just start playing! We can always start over when we die/run out of lives!” That may work with video games but it is TERRIBLY UNWISE to do in life. We need God’s instruction book for the good deeds of life. To not be equipped is to cause God, others and ourselves unnecessary pain, regardless of how passionate we are or how good our intentions may be.
Luke 24:13-47 (NIV): please click HERE
Verses 15 & 16: Jesus shows up in our Bible studies, though we might not realize it! Meet regularly to dig into the Word & discuss Who Jesus is & all He has done!
Verses 25-27: Jesus lovingly but firmly diagnoses correctly the root of the men’s discouragement: their lack of faith in all that God has revealed in His Word!
- But Jesus doesn’t just leave them feeling guilty, He doesn’t just walk away from them shaking His head at their lack of faith…He stays with them and patiently/lovingly/Truthfully shows them in the Bible, from the beginning to the end, how all of the Bible points to Him! Deep, verse-by-verse Bible study with Jesus is the Doctor’s cure for the men’s lack of faith and thus the cure for their confusion, sadness, discouragement, hopelessness, etc. Why do we think Jesus would prescribe a difference cure for us in the 21st century?
- “But I don’t have time,” you might be thinking. You do, you just might not realize it yet. Jesus taught the men AS THEY WERE TRAVELING, as they were going to their houses/village/families. They didn’t retreat from the world for five years to a monastery to study the Bible, Jesus taught them as they learned to focus on Him as they were living their lives! Now of course this means that they probably bypassed some of the exit ramps and attractions and marketplaces along the road they were travelling—and we will have to learn also to turn down the volume of the culture in order to hear the voice of Christ. They couldn’t do all of their normal activities AND listen to Jesus! But they had time in an era without any of the time-saving conveniences of modern life. They had less time than we do but still time for what mattered most! Cut out t.v. and movies and social media for seven days and watch how much time you have to listen to Jesus…
Verse 32: Oh loved ones, we often don’t give the Holy Spirit a chance to dry out the wet wood of our hearts and light a fire within us through God’s Word! I’m not saying that every time you read the Bible your heart will blaze and burn with the power and love and Truth of Jesus—let’s not chase a feeling or experience from Jesus. But isn’t it worth reading the Bible deeply and regularly and prayerfully over our lives because of the distinct possibility of Jesus setting our cold hearts on fire!? We work SO HARD to lose a few pounds or win our fantasy football league or run a marathon…why not transfer that energy to work hard with the Holy Spirit so He can ignite a fire in our hearts for Christ!?
Verses 33-35: Digging deeply into Scripture with Jesus birthed faith in these men—they now believed that the resurrection was TRUE! Do you read the Bible trying to disprove it or allowing Jesus to prove it to you? Are you waiting to read the Bible until you have faith or are you reading it asking Jesus to use it to give you faith?
Now Please Don’t Let The devil Discourage Or Intimidate You!
Tried in the past to read the Bible but it didn’t make sense?
Feel like you aren’t “smart” enough to understand the Bible?
God inspired seven different books of the New Testament—including one Gospel and the book of Revelation—through uneducated, ordinary fishermen!!!
Acts 4:13: “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”
If you feel unqualified to learn the Bible, you are in good company—look at how Paul describes the early followers of Jesus!
1 Corinthians 1:26-31: Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”[d]
God delights in making wise the simple, in making wise the foolish, and in making foolish those who think they ARE wise in themselves!
Psalm 119:73: “Your hands made me and formed me;
give me understanding to learn Your commands.”
God’s skill in creating our bodies is the same skill in teaching us His Word! Our understanding of the Bible comes from GOD, not from our IQ or intelligence!!! The care He took in creating our retinas and blood vessels and organs by hand is the same care He will take in giving us wisdom to understand and live out the Bible with the faith of a little child! YES!
2 Timothy 3:15: “…the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise…”
The Bible, which can make you tomorrow what you are not today…please do not let a lack of wisdom or lack of ability to understand the Bible keep you AWAY from the Bible! Don’t let poor eyesight keep you from going to the eye doctor! Just ask someone you trust to guide you there! Same with the Bible…
Finally, What Are The Points Of All This, What Are The Goals Of Developing This Kind Of Biblical And Family Community With Other Christians Through Deep Bible Reading?
- As we’ve talked already, growing as Christians—growing intimately closer to God and having our character brightly reflect Jesus’ character more and more—thus glorifying God—spreading His fame!
- Encouraging other Christians in their race that Jesus has marked out for them; that is, helping them not to give up and give in and get out: Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (please click HERE).
- Also, being able to teach others about Jesus, His Word, etc.
Now you might say, “Oh no—I KNEW you’d bring something like this up. I’m no teacher of the Bible—I have other gifts, maybe, behind the scenes gifts, but the teaching of the Bible is for pastors, for people who are eloquent speakers, who have stage-presence and charisma and so forth. NOT FOR ME! I don’t want any part of being trained to teach others about all this.”
Oh loved ones please don’t think like that, don’t shrink back from the beautiful and earthly and eternal responsibilities that come with being a child of God, one of His ambassadors, one of His representatives in this foreign land that is not our final home! Don’t shirk your duty, don’t be asleep at the wheel, don’t sell your birthright for a bowl of stew, for an easier Christianity that leaves the hard work and the deep waters for others…don’t do it, loved ones! Jesus carried His cross to the end, and we must carry ours.
- Matthew 28, Jesus’ final instructions to all His followers: “Make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, TEACHING them to obey everything I have commanded you. I WILL BE WITH YOU ALWAYS!”
This isn’t just for those with a “teaching gift”! We think “teaching gift” means an ability to hold a crowd’s attention, an ability to make people laugh and make them want to listen to you, having charisma and a personality that people want to follow. HITLER had that, loved ones, and we wouldn’t say he had a teaching gift from God!!!!
- God called MOSES to speak—to TEACH!—to Pharoah, though Moses was a stutterer.
- God called Paul to speak, though Paul preached in weakness, in fear, in trembling, with no wise or persuasive words, BUT with a demonstration of the Holy Spirit’s POWER, not with a demonstration of human charisma and charm.
No, God has called ALL of His people to be able to handle the Word of God humbly, accurately, and BOLDLY to teach others…you might not have a pulpit or a stage but you do have a table at your house or a coffee shop which God can use to teach others about Him through you!
2 Timothy 2:1-3, 14-15, 24-26: You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. 3 Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
What sets us free? The TRUTH! Like medicine the Truth of God in the Bible sets us free from the prison of spiritual sickness! But we must realize that God has called us all to be spiritual pharmacists, correctly handling and putting together the Truth of God in the Bible so that we can, as guided by the Holy Spirit, in gentleness and respect, humbly and BOLDLY pass out the Truth of God in the doses and quantities and potency that He desires!
I’m not saying you have to go to seminary to get this training, but you do have to be in a small group for this kind of training…
You might say, “I can do this alone—I don’t need anyone else to study the Bible.”
You should be studying the Bible alone—YES! Every day! This is training! You can’t get into shape working out once every two weeks, or even once a week in a small group!
But think about college—why spend the money on tuition if you can just buy the textbooks that college students use, read those textbooks, and get the same knowledge?
- Because most of us are not disciplined to do such studying without the accountability and structure and teaching of professors and even other students…we simply wouldn’t stick with it by ourselves.
- But learning also requires the group, also needs the support of the larger community…we learn better as we read the textbooks and then discuss them in class and study groups with other students and with professors who have been studying the material for years. That enhances and helps the textbook information to stick, to take root, and to grow. So we need small groups to grow as Christians…
I know this is a lot, but I hope God’s Word and His Holy Spirit are showing you how important–how foundational–it is to develop deep community with other Christians through deep Bible reading…